I’ve just been accused of issuing the dullest tweet of the week. Admittedly, “This week, the European Court of Auditors signed off the #EU’s  accounts, as it has done annually since the 2007 financial year” is hardly the most exciting 133 characters ever featured on twitter, but with half-a-billion tweets emerging from the twitter fire hose daily, it was quite a condemnation.
But the point I made in that tweet is important. Why? Because this week saw another raft of accusations that – yet again! – the European Court of Auditors has refused to sign off the EU’s accounts.
The Daily Mail fumed that, “Auditors yesterday refused to sign off the EU accounts for the 19th year in succession”. The Express chipped in too, “for the 19th year in a row, the auditors refused to sign off Europe’s annual accounts”. Ukip MEP Paul Nuttall pounced on an opportunity too good to miss, tweeting: “EU accounts have now failed to be signed off for 19 years in a row”.
The only problem is that, err, it’s not true. A press release [pdf] issued by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) on 5th November stated, “As independent auditor, the ECA has signed off the 2012 accounts of the European Union, as it has done each year since the 2007 financial year”. The first part of the press release’s headline is a bit of a clue too: “EU accounts signed off”.
This sentence also appeared in the auditors’ press release: “In the ECA’s opinion, the consolidated accounts of the European Union present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the Union as at 31 December 2012, the results of its operations, its cash flows and the changes in net assets for the year then ended.”
The auditors didn’t give the EU accounts a totally clean bill of financial health. The ECA’s press release makes it clear that there are errors in EU spending, affecting a figure less than 5 per cent of what it pays out. It states however that this is not a measurement of fraud or waste, but rather where rules were not followed properly, e.g. when goods or services were bought without the proper application of public purchasing rules. A lot of the responsibility for this rests however with national governments and not with the men and women working in Brussels.
Speaking to a friend recently about how some sections of the media and anti-Europeans report the EU, I flippantly remarked that they must either be ignorant of the facts, perhaps wantonly so, or just happy to lie. It was a casual remark that upon reflection I think may be very close to the truth.
If you want more evidence then I suggest you read some of the Lib Dem Voice posts written by Giles Goodall, a friend and one of our European Parliament candidates; he’s illustrated time and again that the anti-European case is littered with this kind of thing.
It’s this ceaseless diet of anti-European rubbish that I find truly dull.
* Stuart Bonar was the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate in Plymouth Moor View.